This time of year, I get a restlessness that builds and builds into a frenetic energy looking for a way out. I’m looking for away out. It’s cold and grey and I’m staring down the barrel of three more effing months of winter here in the Great White North. After living here for eight years, you’d think I’d be used to it by now. I’m not.
I was re-reading A Path with Heart this morning by my man Jack Kornfield, the chapter on “Naming the Demons.” Turns out, I’m possessed by demons.
One demon cuddled up to me today. Restlessness. Jack says it’s called the Pacing Tiger. Perfect. Yes. I get this demon. She’s a mother tiger, huge soft paws padding back and forth in a cage just big enough for her to turn around. Clicking nails, around and around. Every time she turns to pace the other way, she fixes me with a “WTF?” stare.
Indeed. WTF? Why am I so restless? Jack has a few ideas. Sometimes restlessness springs from anxiety, worry, agitation. It’s also a way to avoid painful feelings, the opposite of how some people sleep to avoid. The Pacing Tiger makes me feel like I’m gonna jump out of my own skin. On edge. Distracted.
The good news
I don’t share much here about my real life events; I abstract them so I can write freely. But today, real life is the reason I’m pacing. I have a book project to research and write, I have freelance work to handle, I have a new business venture, house to sell, house to build, new career to begin. It’s a crazy amount of potential change in one year. I have two kids who will not — dammit! — stop changing and growing. I am anxious, scared, worried.
You’re thinking, “Hey! This is such exciting, awesome stuff! You should be happy! You should feel great! Stop moping and remember how lucky you are! Some people have nothing!”
That argument doesn’t fly with me. Shaming me into being happy? Not gonna work.
What am I saying?
I’m saying that good things can cause suffering because we don’t want to make friends with our demons. We ignore them, stuff them down, run around, go to sleep. I’m trying to learn to stay open to good things — scary things — by hugging the Pacing Tiger. I can’t even sit still long enough most days to write in my journal, or here, or start and finish a task on my “to do” list. My mind paces. I’m convinced that multitasking is the Devil’s work.
I wonder, are the people who do and accomplish amazing things without demons? Are they happy with what they have? Did they have such joy along the way that they climbed to those heights without fear or sadness or anger? Did they resent giving up certain things, people, experiences — to get to where they are? Was it enough?
Or did they do and accomplish those amazing things precisely because of their demons? Did they make friends? Did they conquer them? What does it mean to conquer a part of yourself? Is that a cool thing to do?
I don’t really know what I’m saying, but I have a lot of questions. One in particular: Is it worth it to discipline myself, my time, my life to create and send my writing out into the world if it causes pain or suffering for others? If it subtracts instead of adds to my family’s happiness? If it introduces me to more demons?
The Pacing Tiger